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Wimbledon Podiatry Interview | Tom Walton | Podiatrist

Wimbledon Podiatry team member Tom Walton is interviewed and reveals the differences between Podiatry within the Private and NHS sectors.

Tom is an important member of the South West Podiatry team in Wimbledon.  Tom speaks openly about his life as a Dad and trainee Podiatric surgeon whilst also reflecting on his university days as a young aspiring foot specialist.

Tom Watson south west podiatry

What’s your name, age and how long have you been a Podiatrist?

o   Tom Walton

o   32

o   10 years

You’re a foot specialist Tom, with vast experience and working in a specialist role within the NHS, but what made you get into Podiatry in the first instance?

o   I have always been interested in biology and human science so when deciding what to study at University I was drawn to Physiotherapy at first but once I had researched into the various health professions, Podiatry seemed to appeal to me more, due to the varying specialities and differing caseloads.

o   I like the fact that Podiatry as a profession are specialists of the foot and ankle. As well as independent practitioners at south west podiatry team we work in a multi disciplinary approach with chiropractors, physiotherapists, orthopaedics and podiatric surgery. It is certainly better to work together and try to understand how other professions work, but for the foot and ankle, Podiatrists are well placed to provide assessment, diagnosis and management plans to treat all lower  limb pathologies.

That’s great that you work in an MDT privately and within the NHS, so how long is the undergraduate degree?

o   It is a full time Batchelor of science with Honours ( BSc HONS Podiatry) degree for 3 years or you can do it part time which will take 5 years.  You spend quite a considerable amount of time as an undergraduate within the NHS or, if your a pro active student, shadowing practitioners.  

Where did you study?

o   University of Huddersfield for my undergraduate degree and University of Brighton for my Masters.

I believe you have done some extra training ?

o   I have yes, I have completed courses for soft tissue and intra-articular joint injections for a wide range of foot pathologies as well as obtaining IRMER certification order and interpret diagnostic scans such as X-Rays and MRI’s.

o   I am also in my second year of training to become a Podiatric Surgeon.

So how long does it take to become a foot surgeon?

o   In order to become a Podiatric Surgeon you need to complete the undergraduate BSc HONS in Podiatry.  After a minimum of three yeas studying then you need a minimum of 2 years post graduate experience before enrolling onto a Masters degree which takes a further three years. It is encouraged to work within a surgical unit as a clinical assistant.  Once you have completed the passport to surgical training you are then eligible for Surgical training which is a 3-4 year pathway. Once you have completed this you are a Fellow in Podiatric Surgery and you need to work with a consultant for another three years to get your certificate of completion Podiatric Surgery training.

o   So in short 12-13 years.

That’s long, you get less time for murder! It must be hard work studying, working full time and raising your daughter, how do you do it? 

o   I won’t lie, it does take a considerable amount of dedication and a passion to learn.  You need a tremendous amount of knowledge, skills and experience to become a Podiatric Surgeon. You need to be organised and give up a lot of time for it. Thankfully, I have a very understanding and supportive wife and business partner so that helps.

So that’s where you are heading but where did you start.  What was your first podiatry job and did you enjoy it?

o   First Job was in Kilburn north London part of Camden NHS trust. It was great to be free from university and start earning money but scary at the same time. I learnt a lot in my first year as a Podiatrist.

What is the best part of being a foot specialist ?

o   The best thing is helping people, even if its just simple toe nail cutting on a person who is unable to do so, or treating painful MSK conditions of the foot that leaves people debilitated. Relieving people of pain is a great feeling and very rewarding.

And the worst ?  seriously, apart from sweaty feet?

o   Its is rare to get sweaty and smelly feet I must say, unless I have built up an immunity to smelling feet? The worst part would be the general publics perception and other health care professionals opinions / knowledge of what we do as a profession.  People and health care professionals believe we are nail and corn cutters. We do so much more than that, we are the specialist of the foot and ankle dealing with dermatological conditions, MSK conditions along with serious high risk disorders of the feet that if untreated can cause quite considerable mobility issues.  Liam has a strong opinion on this subject, so I will let him explain a little more in his interview!

Ok – Come on tell me, what are the worst feet you have seen?

o   For me it would have to be diabetic feet, ones that have circulatory problems as well, because these can go bad very quickly and you can usually smell them before you see them.

If you could change on thing about your job what would it be, and why?

o   As said before the recognition of our specialism with the wider public and healthcare professionals. As well as dropping and getting rid of the “C” word (CHIROPODIST)

This question is for our current podiatry students or newly qualified podiatrists, just starting out, what’s the best advise you could give them?

o   This profession provides a lot of opportunities to be a clinician but also a business person which will give you lots of career fulfilment.  Be pro active in shadowing people, learn as much as you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

You work within the NHS and Private sector.  To give the newbie podiatrists an idea, what is the difference?

o   The NHS is great organisation with good values and morals, However, it has been widely abused by us as users of the service and professionals working with in it. Along with poor management it is a struggling service so cut backs mean that as a clinician we are constantly held back by budgets and a lot of red tape meaning the patient looses out. Privately you can manage and work in smaller services which means you are able to give more time and resources to the patient. Using equipment such as force plates, 3D scanning and imaging to help diagnose and manage patients in a more efficient way than possible in some NHS trusts. At South West Podiatry we have same day access to X rays, MRI, Ultrasound examination’s and lets say a patient wants a specific type of orthotic device, we can go out there and meet their expectation. We work with orthotic companies from Canada, Australia, Ireland and the USA. 

Which do you prefer, NHS or Private ?

o   Hard to say I love my NHS position I deal with a lot of complex foot pathologies which challenge me. But the private sector really allows me to treat and manage patients in the best way I can.

Just one more question, so you have a foot fetish right?

o   Ha ha ha most definitely not!!!!!! The feet I have seen and treated would put you off your dinner for life.

Tom Walton MSc BSc HONS MChs HcPC 


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